Democrats push at trial to change Texas voting maps for 2018

Pierre Vaugeois
Juillet 11, 2017

Rafael Anchia is head of the Texas House's Mexican American Legislative Caucus, a the plaintiff in the lawsuit against the state. Opponents decry those maps as a quick fix that didn't purge all districts of the use of gerrymandering - the practice of drawing boundaries to favor one political party over another - in a racially biased way.

A trial in Texas is underway with Democrats and minority rights groups arguing that the booming state needs new election maps for 2018 to undo discrimination.

The political stakes are high. If the current maps are thrown out, the Legislature would have to draw new maps in time for the 2018 election.

As arguments continue from 9 a.m.to 6 p.m. for the rest of the week, including Saturday, if necessary.

With Texas becoming less white each day, lawyers for minority rights groups opened their push for new maps by parsing the state's demographic growth, which shows that the population of eligible white voters has significantly declined since 2010.

State Republican leaders deny those findings and want a three-judge panel in San Antonio to not order any changes to Texas maps before next year's midterm elections.

Darby says the court then drew up its own maps before the 2012 elections and it's the court's own maps the Legislature adopted in 2013.

MALC also presented an alternative map to demonstrate that the state House boundaries could have been drawn in a way that minimized the slicing of municipalities and created additional "opportunity districts" where minority voters are able to select their preferred candidates. In fact, MALC Chairman Rafael Anchia said earlier this year that the state has violated the constitution nearly every time it's drawn electoral maps since the '70s.

When asked by federal district Judge Orlando Garcia how this relates to the 2013 maps, the Mexican American Legislative Caucus' lawyer, Jose Garza, indicated it was proof that Texans of color don't have proportional representation under the maps now in place. But if the three judges decide to strike down some Texas state House district lines, it would set up another legal battle down the road. Those maps, according to the panel, were drawn by "mapdrawers [who] acted with an impermissible intent to dilute minority voting strength or otherwise violated the Fourteenth Amendment", according to U.S. District Judges Orlando Garcia and Xavier Rodriguez. Any ruling by the panel could be appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

Darby and the state argue that the Legislature isn't responsible for the maps because the court drew them up. Two federal courts this year found that Republican lawmakers purposefully discriminated against minorities in drafting both a voter ID law and redistricting maps in 2011.

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